Swatting has evolved from being an expensive childish prank played on celebrities to a deadly threat linked directly to online gaming. Why?

2018 will mark the dubious 10-year anniversary of the term ‘swatting’ first officially being used by the FBI. According to the agency’s documents, before the swatting term existed there were dozens of examples on file dating back to 2002. It was then that five ‘swatters’ began a four-year spree using computer and telecommunication work-arounds to flood 9-1-1 operators in 60 cities across America with false reports requiring S.W.A.T. involvement. These included bomb threats at sporting events resulting in delays to the games and an entire hotel being evacuated after claims that some guests were armed and dangerous.

Since then, swatting has had a cycle with public figures and celebrities (2013 saw Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber targeted, amongst others).  For the past three years it has become a common occurrence in the online gaming community, where gamers who livestream their playing sessions have been interrupted (to put it mildly) by heavily armed tactical teams responding to false reports of hostage situations or shootings. The swatting victims’ webcams often capture all of the real-life action, much to the amusement of whoever initiated the prank. Some of the cases can be linked to disputes between gamers, other times it’s a completely random prank.

In the summer of 2017 legislation was introduced in the United States that, if passed, would outlaw internet crimes such as swatting. Until then, the wild west world of online pranking and swatting will most likely continue. If you are a gamer just trying to enjoy an online multiplayer match of games like Call of Duty, remember this: play safe.

Story by Jay Moon